Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Sad Day in California

It's time to update you all on yesterday's Senate Judiciary Hearing on the California Compassionate Choices Act, a bill supported by an overwhelming number of Californians, a Bill which would have brought the right to end-of-life choices to terminally ill patients suffering intolerable pain. A Bill which has enjoyed 8 successful years, with no reports of abuse, in the State of Oregon.

A Bill which was derailed by an otherwise Progressive Democrat. This fact alone saddens me most. Here is the message I sent to my team of supporters this morning:

Yesterday was a sad day for the rights of terminally ill patients, their friends and families and for all Californians who believe in the civil right to choose the manner of our death at a time of inescapable suffering at the end of life.

Yesterday's Senate Judicial Committee hearing brought to an abrupt and unexpected halt a year long positive campaign to bring death with dignity to California. Senator Joe Dunn, who I am ashamed to say is a Democrat, cast the deciding vote, joining the Committee's two Republicans. His rationale was tortured and painful to listen to as he explained his fears that a future legislature, influenced by "big money" might expand this right to people suffering but not terminal, or terminal but not suffering. Although claiming to reject the "slippery slope" argument of the opponents, Dunn's comments used their contorted logic, which flies in the face of eight years of empirical evidence to the contrary in Oregon.

Some people commented later it appeared as though Dunn essentially caved in to "big money's" opposition, which came primarily in the form of the California Medical Association and the Catholic Church hierarchy, two vocal and well financed opponents whose lobbyists spoke against the Bill in the hearing.

A legislator of Joe Dunn's stature claiming not to trust the legislative process, is the height of cynicism, at least to this observer.

Our two years of advocacy for this Bill are over, but a new push will soon begin. The form is not certain but the cause is: the right of all to make our own medical decisions, with the counsel of family and physician.

I will update you as things progress in the weeks ahead. Thanks to everyone for all your support for this measure.